For a team that suffered a 32-point loss to a Division II school in their first game action this season, is it fair to say that the St. John's Red Storm have hit a new low point on the year?
An embarrassing loss against Incarnate Word on Friday night was followed up with an absolute clunker this afternoon against NJIT, as the Johnnies dropped their second straight at home in a 83-74 loss.
You could point to any number of things as the reason for this loss. Maybe it was the poor shooting—the Red Storm (7-5) shot 34 percent from the field, went 8-32 from downtown, and hit just 16 of their 32 free throws—or maybe it was the lack of perimeter defense. NJIT (7-5) hit 11 3-pointers on the afternoon, with guards Damon Lynn and Chris Jenkins combining for 10 of them. A slow start also bit the Johnnies.
For the second time in about 40 hours, St. John's failed to pick up any sort of momentum in the first half. The Red Storm continued to settle for 3-point shots despite a clear height advantage, and for the second straight game their 3-pointers just weren't falling.
St. John's shot just 25 percent (4-16) from downtown in the half, and despite a 23-13 rebounding advantage (including a 13-0 domination on the offensive boards), the Johnnies still trailed 39-35 at the half.
On the defensive side in the first half, there weren't many bright spots for the Red Storm either. The Highlanders hit seven of their 11 shots from downtown in the half, as the backcourt combo of Lynn and Jenkins scored at will on the St. John's defense. The two combined for 30 of the 39 NJIT first half points, as Jenkins had 16 and Lynn added 14.
St. John's looked much more comfortable on offense early in the second half as their 3-pointers began to fall, however their lack of 3-point defense on Lynn and Jenkins on the other end kept the Red Storm from achieving any sort of prolonged momentum.
After the Johnnies took a 50-47 lead, NJIT went on an 15-0 run (fueled by nine points from Lynn) to take a 62-50 advantage midway through the half. NJIT would continue control the game from that point on, as they held on to a seven-point lead with 3:26 remaining.
The Red Storm would cut the Highlanders lead to 75-72 with 54.9 seconds remaining, however an NJIT basket followed by a Federico Mussini miss and Ron Mvouika foul all but put the comeback to bed. Eventually NJIT would pull away late for the nine-point win.
Mussini led St. John's with 20 points, however he shot just 6-18 from the field and 5-14 from downtown. Yankuba Sima had 14 rebounds but scored just six late points in the second half, and Christian Jones had another nice game with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Johnnies were again without Felix Balamou and Darien Williams, who each missed the game due to injury. Guard Marcus LoVett also did not play as he waits on news from the NCAA regarding his eligibility for the second half of the year.
For the Highlanders, Lynn scored a season-high 32 points on nine of 16 shooting, while Jenkins added a career-high 19 points on seven of eight shooting. Tim Coleman added 10 points and 11 rebounds as well. This was NJIT's first win in program history against a Big East opponent, as they were 0-21 against the conference coming in.
Losses to national programs like Vanderbilt and Indiana are expected, losses on the road at Fordham are accepted, but can Red Storm fans really handle losing two straight at home against Incarnate Word and NJIT?
The 7-5 Johnnies will have a day to recover from these poor performances before they face off with the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks in Connecticut on Tuesday night.